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Pass or protect? Debate rages on


Shawn from Cape Coral, FL

If the courts force the NFL to let the players play, does that mean there is no free agency? What does that mean to the players and teams? Does it mean the teams own the players' rights until they don't want them anymore?

Vic: You're asking questions to which the teams would like to know the answers. In other words, you've gone too far into the future; you've entered the I-don't-know zone. Let's start with this question: What if the federal district court in Minneapolis rules that the teams can't lock the players out? The answer is that it would likely lead to an appeal and more court time.

Julian from Memphis, TN

Do you expect for some bitter feelings to develop? Drew Brees is an example. Will the Saints organization resent his actions?

Vic: It can happen. There were a lot of wounds that took time to heal following the 1987 strike that produced replacement-player games. That is, of course, the extreme example and we are nowhere near that point. Back then, the problem was bitter feelings from players having crossed the picket line to play. This isn't a strike so that's not gonna happen this time. This time, the potential danger is bitterness between the players and fans. That's what concerns me. We are in tough economic times and if this labor dispute is perceived to be the reason for an increase in ticket prices, the possibility exists that fans will be embittered. That's a potential PR problem the players are facing.

Ron from Helena, MT

I read your response to a question about why the Packers play conservative after getting a slight lead. I don't agree with your comments. Look at New England when they get ahead; they will try to run over you by 50 points, if possible, and their record of success over the past 10 years is pretty good. Belichick goes for it all the time and wins because of that.

Vic: How did that work for the Patriots at Indianapolis in 2009?

Nick from Wheeling, WV

People said that if there wasn't a salary cap, the big markets would start to dominate. Will that be the case in a few years, once a team like the Cowboys can organize a team of superstars?

Vic: I don't believe it's as much an issue in football as it is in baseball. In my opinion, there is too much football talent available for a few teams to corner the market. I like the original intent of the salary cap, which was to control spending, but it didn't accomplish its intent and, in the cap system's final years, it hurt small-market teams more than it helped them because the cap became little more than a means for large-market, high-revenue teams to transfer their player costs onto small-market, low-revenue teams, which is to say the teams that could least afford that to happen. If that's the way it's going to be, then I think small-market, low-revenue teams would be better off left to their own devices and creativity, instead of being forced to spend to a limit they can't afford. Last year was an uncapped year. How did that work for the Cowboys?

Scott from Orlando, FL

This labor situation is crazy, and what is sad about it is neither side has learned from the mistakes made five years ago. Litigation will solve nothing with the current mentality – leaguethink is required by the owners and players and right now it's dead. From reading your column for years, my main question is who will be the next Rozelle? The NFL needs him. The people in charge need to have foresight: "If I was an NFL owner flying back from Dallas on my private jet last night, I might've been thinking: We gave the players too much." – "Ask Vic," March 9, 2006.

Vic: Pete Rozelle was the greatest commissioner in the history of professional sports – that's my opinion and it is shared by many – but given today's circumstances, I'm not sure that Pete Rozelle could be the next Pete Rozelle.

Steve from Paris, France

Loved your explanation of "split backs" or "pro set." When did teams stop using that system and why?

Vic: The success the Redskins had with their one-back set in the 1980s might be described as the bridge between the versatility of "split backs" and the qualities of specialization in today's running back/fullback formation. The one-back set ended the mystery of which back was going to get the ball. When it succeeded, it became clear that you didn't need to keep it a secret as to who was going to get the ball. Give it to the best runner and get the best blocker you can find for him and let each guy do what he does best.

Earl from Winnipeg, Manitoba

The next time you're in the press box before the game, look down on the field during the national anthem at the American Legion members. My father and up to four of my uncles, as well as many other cousins, will be there. The big man standing off to the side will be my grandfather. He has attended every home Packers game for the last 37 years. I've always been a level-headed fan and I enjoy reading your column daily. I am so glad to have some daily interaction with my team. As for the snow, after 33 years I've decided it's just magic. No one knows where it goes, it just leaves.

Vic: Thirty-seven years and he's never missed a home game. That's fantastic. I love tradition.

Joseph from Wessington, SD

Just want to tell you that I love all that you've done since coming aboard. Welcome to the Midwest and if you ever want to come pheasant hunting, look me up. I live around tons of birds; you're welcome to head out, as long as you bring a few of your new Packers friends. Trust me, we have fun in the Midwest.

Vic: Yeah, that sounds like a lot of fun, but do we have to kill the birds? Can't we just look at them?

Gabe from Jacksonville, FL

The NFL is at it again. I heard they're trying to push a new rule that a quarterback can't be hit during the act of throwing. I guess the quarterback must go down and the quarterback must go down gently. If this passes, would you be in favor of skirts for the quarterbacks?

Vic: I liked what I suggested last fall, even though most people laughed at it: Do away with intentional grounding and allow the quarterback to spike the ball any time he wants, even to avoid a sack. I'd rather see him be protected that way than to literally forbid players to hit him. Player safety is a priority issue and I acknowledge and accept that, but we've got to be careful not to turn football into just another game. Its foundation is built on the principle of physical confrontation. Physical confrontation and the toughness it demands is not only what makes football special, it is its charm.

Brock from Seymour, IN

Moving kickoffs up and changing the touchback starting position to the 25-yard line will not promote player safety. It will promote kickers trying to use higher kicks to place it close to the goal line. I feel like this will produce an even greater percentage of large hits on tackles and blocks. Your thoughts?

Vic: You could end up being right, but I'm looking at the big picture and what I see in this proposal is the NFL's first acknowledgment that you make the game safer by compressing the field, not by opening it. All of the efforts over the past several years have been toward creating more open space and, in my opinion, that's led to more injuries because the greater the distances, the greater the collisions. By compressing the field, the action, in my opinion, will slow down. I favor this attempt to shorten the field for kickoffs. I think it'll test the compression theory. If it works, maybe we need to go back to the rules of bump and run, the theory being that you can't run at a guy if you're already engaged with him.

Jack from Manitowoc, WI

About running to protect the lead and statistics that support it: I contend the statistics wouldn't support this view for the great quarterbacks. How often have Peyton Manning or Tom Brady lost a game when continuing to attack through the air when they've had a lead? Seems like every time I see it, they just keep adding to the lead. I think Aaron Rodgers would do the same.

Vic: How many teams have a Manning or a Brady? I agree that you give a wider berth to players of that extreme skill and I would also agree that Rodgers is on the verge of being recognized as a player of Manning-like or Brady-like skill, but I think it's time for the throw-throw-throw people to acknowledge that the get-a-lead-and-protect-it approach was pretty successful for the Packers in their drive to the Super Bowl title. Why change it?

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